These new technologies can not only support technicians in making the right decisions on site. It can also help them increase the precision of their hand grips. The future has already begun!
Robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, 3D printing. These new technologies are not only used to automate numerous processes in the company. They also help people in their daily tasks.
The combination of man and machine results in a far more efficient work force than man alone or the machine alone. People bring their creativity to the table, their sense of innovation. The machine delivers its computing power and its ability to repeat task indefinitely without ever getting tired.
The well-thought-out use of new technologies can "expand" or "deepen" a technician. However, this positive vision has led to a violent discourse that predicts a bleak future. According to some experts, the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will lead to large-scale job cuts. The most pessimistic studies estimate a loss of 50% of the existing jobs. However, they do not consider how many new jobs will be created by the digital revolution.
In this context, the idea was expressed that the digital transformation would only affect the “white collar”, i.e. the intellectual workforce. But this is not the case. On the contrary, the technologies lead to an “expansion”, i.e. an improvement in the physical and cognitive abilities of “blue collar” workers. Accenture published a very interesting report on this, the life of an industrial technician in the age of new, "destructive" technologies.
This digital revolution brings decisive changes, especially for maintenance technicians. They now have superpowers that go far beyond the ubiquitous smartphone or tablet.
Even before an operation is triggered, the machine learning or deep learning algorithms enter the playing field. They analyze the information about the temperature, humidity, vibrations or pressure of a device that is transmitted by sensors in real time.
In the case of permanent use, predictive models can be set up with which signs of possible malfunctions can be detected and recommendations for further action can be given. The goal is clear: anticipate breakdowns before they occur.
The predictive maintenance not only extends the life of equipment, it also significantly reduces the number of maintenance operations at one location. A technician can also remotely take corrective action, such as sending a corrective software package. To do this, he consults the condition of the device and the recommendations of the AI.
This tele-maintenance prevents unnecessary journeys and reduces equipment downtime. It is similar to the takeover of a user's computer by a technician on the service hotline, only that there is no user available to report on the problemin this case.
If, despite all these efforts, a deployment cannot be avoided, the maintenance technician has a comprehensive insight into the condition of the machine before he arrives on site. Based on the data on previous breakdowns of the same device type, the technician knows which spare parts he needs. So, he only takes those spare parts with him that he probably needs to replace.
With a VR helmet, the technician can even get an idea of the defective machine before use and find out where the defective part is. In virtual reality, he can safely try out all the gestures that he has to perform in action. The mixed reality of Microsoft's HoloLens makes it possible to deal with virtual objects in the same way as with real objects.
Artificial intelligence can improve resource planning. Metaheuristic algorithms process a large number of parameters in order to offer optimal deployment planning.
A so-called intelligent design considers the use of type and its expected duration, the travel time and the traffic situation, the skills and availability of technicians and inventory of spare parts.
But let's get back to our technician on site. He is now facing the defective machine. This is where augmented reality comes in. A screen appears in the technician's helmet that shows him all the information that is important for his current situation. They practically lie on top of the real world.
The technician is no longer dependent on a smartphone or tablet. He works off his to-do list with his hands free. He can access data on the condition of the device or technical documentation (plans, drawings, manuals, etc.) at any time.
A technician can also be "expanded" by a colleague. Some telecom companies carried out a 5G experiment using augmented reality. A maintenance technician was equipped with a HoloLens helmet and received advice from an expert who was several tens of kilometers away.
These new technologies not only take on repetitive tasks, but also tedious tasks. A maintenance technician often finds himself in the position of having to perform difficult operations manually. An exoskeleton allows him to multiply his physical strength and move heavy weights with little effort. The exoskeleton can be a fully automated item of clothing or an external prosthesis.
An exoskeleton can also serve as a seat for the technician, which is a great relief for the technician when the work is carried out mainly while standing. In any case, an exoskeleton improves the working conditions of the maintenance technician and reduces the risk of diseases in the bone-muscle system.
Hyperlink InfoSystem is a leading artificial intelligence and augmented reality solutions developer. Contact us if you ever consider deploying these technologies.